In most cases you wouldn’t want to promote a salad or a main course. At a sit-down restaurant most customers come into your establishment to order an entrée and in many cases you probably give them a salad with the entrée. If the goal is to increase you average ticket price, cause marketing the entrée probably isn't the ticket.
But with an appetizer, drink or dessert promotion you could quite possibly raise the average ticket price by several dollars.
Drinks have very high margins, of course, and consequently they are often featured in cause marketing promotions. Most of the cause marketing around mixed drinks that I’ve seen involve a custom cocktail that somehow befits the cause.
All that’s required is the lead time to figure out what that special drink is and to stock up on the necessary inventory. Drinks could, however, be a bad mix for certain causes. And while there’s a handful of causes you probably couldn’t do a dessert promotion with… anti-obesity causes come to mind…I reckon there’s more safe ground with dessert than with drink promotions.
Moreover, desserts are potentially more universal than drinks since even youngsters and teetotalers (like moi) could order one. The number of active drinkers isn't as high as you might think. A U.S. Department of Justice survey found that 46 percent of adults 21 and over had not consumed any alcohol in the prior 30 days. Another 26 percent reported drinking less than once a week.
For some of the same reasons appetizers can be a good choice for cause marketing, too.
The key in such a cause marketing promotion is… well… the promotion. How are you going to activate it? That is, tell customers and prospective customers about it.
Telling customers is easy. Brief your service staff on the promotion. You make even offer some kind of incentive for them to push the promoted dessert item, sales contests, for instance. You could put it in the menu, on table tents, on internal posters, etc.
If you already advertise, you should add a picture of the item and a few sentences of description about the cause and the promotion. If you don’t advertise, you should certainly send out some press releases, post it to your website/Facebook (and other social media), Tweet out the daily results, maybe even do some kind of thematically appropriate publicity stunt.
Honestly, this is the closest thing to a turn-key cause marketing promotion as I can think of for a restaurant.